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Pecan-Peach Cornmeal Cake | by djwtwo
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Pecan-Peach Cornmeal Cake

I had bought some peach nectar to use in mixed drinks for the holidays this year, had a few cans left over, and set out to use it up today. Used a little bit this morning (replaced half of the dairy in french toast with it, and served the resulting french toast with sliced cling peaches–kids loved it) but had bigger things in mind. Broke out my copy of Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, looked up the quick bread ratio, and came up with this: a cornmeal "cake", cooked like an upside-down cake with nuts in the topping, and used the peach nectar for the liquid in the recipe. I tweaked things just a little, borrowing from other things I've baked in the past, and I'm happy with the result (which could have been a bit more peachy, but was nice and moist.)

 

Ingredients are mostly by weight, although I've added approximate volumes. Liquids are measured in liquid ounces (by volume).

 

As an aside, the more I cook starting with an established ratio like the ones in Ruhlman’s books, the more comfortable I feel straying “off-recipe” when baking (I’ve always been pretty recipe-free with other forms of cooking). That coincides with me learning more about the actual interactions of the ingredients (been reading a good amount of McGee lately, too), but still, I like having the jumping-off point that the ratios provide.

 

I just took a few snapshots in the available kitchen light. I got one with the look I wanted shooting freehand, and while shots at ISO6400 on my new DSLR look pretty damn good, I decided to break out a tripod and recreate the composition for a sharper shot.

  

Ingredients

 

For the topping

 

1 1/2 c. chopped pecans

1 c. packed light brown sugar

4 oz. unsalted butter

 

For the cake

 

6 oz. yellow cornmeal (about 1 c.)

8 oz. all purpose flour (about 2 1/4 c.)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. powdered ginger

14 oz. (1 3/4 c.) peach nectar

2 oz. (1/4 c.) heavy cream

7 oz. melted butter

2 oz. packed light brown sugar (about 1/4 c.)

4 oz. sugar (about 2/3 c.)

3 large eggs

2 egg whites

  

Directions

 

Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the lower middle position.

 

Bring 6 oz. (3/4 c.) of the peach nectar to a simmer, pour over the cornmeal, stir to form a mush, and set aside for 15 minutes to let the corn meal soften.

 

Make the topping by melting the butter over medium-low heat in a deep 10" cake pan. Stir in the pecans and toast slightly, then mix in the brown sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside.

 

Meanwhile, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ginger together well in a large bowl.

 

Add the whole eggs, brown sugar, sugar, heavy cream, and the remaining peach nectar to the cornmeal mush and mix well. Pour in the melted butter.

 

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks.

 

Pour the cornmeal mixture onto the dry ingredients, and stir until combined and large lumps are broken up. Fold in the egg whites until no streaks remain, pour over the pecans in the cake pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted off-center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm, with some lightly-sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

 

NB: I had a lot of the topping left in the cake pan when I removed the cake (I'm assuming the nuts absorbed more of the butter than, say, the fruit in an upside-down cake might have.) I just scraped it loose with a rubber spatula and put it on top of the cake. Still tasted great, even if not quite as sticky-gooey as I was going for. If there’s a next time, I might either try a bit more butter, or make the butter-brown sugar mixture then just sprinkle the crushed pecans on top of it (or both). Buttering the pan and lining the bottom with parchment might also have helped.

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Taken on January 9, 2011